Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan: Indic Roots of Mantra. Bloomsbury, 2018.

Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan dismantles the preconception that Buddhism is a religion of mystical silence, arguing that language is in fact central to the Buddhist tradition. By examining the use of ‘extraordinary language’-evocations calling on the power of the Buddha-in Japanese Buddhist Tantra, Richard K. Payne shows that such language was not simply cultural baggage carried by Buddhist practitioners from South to East Asia. Rather, such language was a key element in the propagation of new forms of belief and practice.

In contrast to Western approaches to the philosophy of language, which are grounded in viewing language as a form of communication, this book argues that it is the Indian and East Asian philosophies of language that shed light on the use of language in meditative and ritual practices in Japan. It also illuminates why language was conceived as an effective means of progress on the path from delusion to awakening.


Table of Contents

1. Extraordinary Language Use
2. Is Language Communication?: Extraordinary Language in the face of Philosophy of Language
3. Indic Understandings of Language-from Vedas to Tantra
4. East Asian Understandings of Language
5. Emptiness and Cosmogenesis in the Tantric Buddhism of Japan
6. The Clear Light Mantra Homa- Religious Agency in Medieval Japanese Buddhist Ritual
7. The Authority of the Speech of the Buddha: Aural Dimensions of Epistemology
8. Dhāraṇi in the Lotus Sutra: Indic Context for the Power of Words
9. Ajikan: Visualizing the Syllable A
10. Concluding Reflections


“This is a magisterial work that brilliantly distils and presents decades of exploring and encountering the nuances and profundity of the “extraordinary language” of Japanese Buddhism. Beautifully and clearly written, this book leads us through a sophisticated and innovative methodology that demonstrates the many dimensions and, above all, uses, of religious language. Richard Payne has provided us with a landmark contribution to Tantric Studies, Buddhist Studies, and Japanese Religion.” –  Glen Alexander Hayes, Professor of Religion, Bloomfield College, USA

“This volume on ‘extraordinary language’ in different traditions of East Asian Buddhism, with its richly textured case-studies and its theoretical depth, is a brilliant contribution to the study of Buddhist philosophy and practice of language.” –  Fabio Rambelli, Professor of Japanese Religions and ISF Endowed Chair in Shinto Studies, University of California, USA

“Payne’s project is an extended meditation on “the transmission of certain ways of thinking about language from India through China to Japan.” Examining mantra, dhara?i, Daimoku, Komyu shingon, and ajikan in light of European and Asian theories of language, Payne rejects simplistic reductions of such “extraordinary language” to an apophatic rejection of language and argues that linguistic efficacy is “central to the Buddhist tradition transmitted from South to East Asia.” –  Charles D. Orzech, Professor of Religious Studies, Colby College, USA


Pure Land Buddhism in China: A Doctrinal History, by Shinkō Mochizuki, Richard K. Payne and Natalie E.F. Quli, eds., Leo Pruden, trans. 2 vols.

Vol. 1: Translation;

Vol. 2: Supplemental Essays and Appendices: Ch. 1: Mochizuki Shinkō: Historical and Intellectual Contexts, by Daniel Getz; Ch. 2: Chinese Scholarship on Pure Land Buddhism in China, by Charles B. Jones; Ch. 3: Scholarship on Chinese Pure Land Buddhism Since Mochizuki: Japanese Sources; Ch. 4: English-Language Sources on Chinese Pure Land Buddhism: A Bibliographic Essay, by Scott A. Mitchell.

Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change across the Longue Durée, Richard K. Payne and Michael Witzel, eds., Oxford Ritual Studies Series, Oxford University Press, 2016.

Introduction, by Richard K. Payne
Symbolic and Comparative Studies
The Ritual Interplay of Fire and Water in Hindu and Buddhist Tantras, by Holly Grether
Buddhist Permutations and Symbolism of Fire, by Tadeusz Skorupski
The Structure of Japanese Buddhist Homa, by Musashi Tachikawa
Textual Studies
The Vedic Homa and the Standardization of Hindu Pūjā, by Timothy Lubin
Oblation, Non-conception, and Body: Systems of Psychosomatic Fire Oblation in
Esoteric Buddhism in Medieval South Asia, by Tsunehiko Sugiki
The Three Types of Fire Sacrifice According to Kāṇha’s Śrīcakrasaṃvara-homavidhi, by David B. Gray
Fire Rituals by the Queen of Siddhas: The Aparimitāyur-homa-vidhi-nāma in the
Tengyur, by Georgios T. Halkias
Homa Rituals in the Indian Kālacakra-tantra Tradition, by Vesna A. Wallace
Ritual Subjects: Homa in Chinese Translations and Manuals from the Sixth through Eighth Centuries, by Charles D. Orzech
Descriptive Studies
Newar Buddhist Homa Ritual Traditions, by Todd Lewis and Naresh Bajrachrya
The Navarātra Homa: Liver, Enchantment, and Engendering the Divine Śaktis, by Nawaraj Chaulagain
Fire on the Mountain: The Shugendō Saitō Goma, by Richard K. Payne
Agnihotra Rituals in Nepal, by Michael Witzel

Scripture:Canon::Text:Context: Essays Honoring Lewis R. Lancaster
Contemporary Issues in Buddhist Studies Series, dist. University of Hawai’i Press.

Foreword by Richard K. Payne

The Mountain Spirit: Dōgen, Gary Snyder, and Critical Buddhism
by Carl Bielefeldt
Sectarian Rationalization: Shūgaku in Tokugawa Japan
Ninchō, Gizan, and Monnō of the Jōdo-shū
by Mark L. Blum
Sugi’s Collation Notes to the Koryŏ Buddhist Canon and TheirSignificance for Buddhist Textual Criticism
by Robert E. Buswell, Jr.
Studies in Dhāraṇī Literature III: Seeking the Parametersof a Dhāraṇī-piṭaka, the Formation of the Dhāraṇīsaṃgrahas,and the Place of the Seven Buddhas
by Ronald M. Davidson
Affliction and Infestation in an Indian Buddhist Embryological
by Robert Kritzer
Alternative Configurations: Toward an Historiography of Practice
by Richard K. Payne
Assessing Shinran’s Shinjin from an Indian Mahāyāna BuddhistPerspective: With a Focus on Tathāgatagarbha Thought
by Kenneth K. Tanaka
On Justifying the Choice of Mahāyāna among Multiple Pathsin Buddhist Teachings: Based on the Prajnāpāramitā-sūtras
by Yao-ming Tsai

Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, edited by Charles Orzech, Henrik Sorensen, and Richard K. Payne, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Brill 2011.

In all likelihood, it was the form of Buddhism labeled “Esoteric Buddhism” that had the greatest geographical spread of any form of Buddhism. It left its imprint not only on its native India, but far beyond, on Southeast Asia, Central Asia, including Tibet and Mongolia, as well as the East Asian countries China, Korea and Japan. Not only has Esoteric Buddhism contributed substantially to the development of Buddhism in many cultures, but it also facilitated the transmission of religious art and material culture, science and technology. This volume, the result of an international collaboration of forty scholars, provides a comprehensive resource on Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in their Chinese, Korean, and Japanese contexts from the first few centuries of the common era right up to the present.

Contributors include: Barbara Ambrose, Anna Andreeva, Sarah Aptilon, Ian Astley, Clemente Beghi, Heather Blair, William Bodiford, Chen Jinhua, Paul Copp, Ronald M. Davidson, Lucia Dolce, Athanasios Drakakis, Donald Drummond, Ruth Dunnell, Jay Ford, David Gardiner, Rolf Giebel, Robert M. Gimello, David Gray, Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, Nobumi Iyanaga, George Keyworth, Martin Lehnert, Hun Y. Lye, Shinya Mano, Richard M. McBride, Laura Meeks, Regan Murphy, Charles D. Orzech, Richard K. Payne, Klaus Pinte, Fabio Rambelli, Thierry Robouam, James Robson, Brian Ruppert, Neil Schmid, Gaynor Sekimori, Shen Weirong, Henrik H. Sørensen, Mark Unno, Pamela Winfield

How Much is Enough? Buddhism, Consumerism and the Human Environment, Wisdom Publications; Chinese translation, Liw Publications, 2012

The massive outpouring of consumer products available today might alone lead one to ask “How much is enough?” But at the same time, if we allow ourselves to see the social, political, economic and environmental consequences of the system that produces such a mass of “goods,” then the question is not simply a matter of one’s own personal choice, but points to the profound interconnectedness of our day to day decisions about “How much is enough?” The ease with which we can acquire massive quantities of food, clothing, kitchenware, and various electronic goods directly connects each of us with not only environmental degradation caused by strip mining in West Virginia, and with sweat shops and child labor in India or Africa, but also with the ongoing financial volatility of Western capitalist economies, and the increasing discrepancies of wealth in all countries.

This interconnectedness is the human environment, a phrase intended to point toward the deep interconnection between the immediacy of our own lives, including the question of “How much is enough?,” and both the social and natural worlds around us. This collection brings together essays from an international conference jointly sponsored by Ryukoku University, Kyoto, and the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley. The effects of our own decisions and actions on the human environment is examined from several different perspectives, all informed by Buddhist thought. The contributors are all simultaneously Buddhist scholars, practitioners and activists—thus the collection is not simply a conversation between these differing perspectives, but rather demonstrates the integral unity of theory and practice for Buddhism.

Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, Wisdom Publications

While the tantric Buddhism found in the Indian and Tibetan traditions is increasingly recognized, in East Asia tantric Buddhism remains largely unknown. This collection brings together twelve key essays on tantric Buddhism in East Asia, drawn from sources that are not commonly available. The collection is organized into four sections: China and Korea, Japan, Deities and Practices, and Influences on Japanese Religion.

Payne’s work, which brings together in one place a “critical mass” of scholarship, will create a sea change in the understanding of the history of East Asian Buddhism and Tantra.

Approaching the Land of Bliss: Religious Praxis in the Cult of Amitabha, University of Hawai’i Press

The discourse of Buddhist studies has traditionally been structured around texts and nations (the transmission of Buddhism from India to China to Japan). And yet, it is doubtful that these categories reflect in any significant way the organizing themes familiar to most Buddhists. It could be argued that cultic practices associated with particular buddhas and bodhisattvas are more representative of the way Buddhists conceive of their relation to tradition. This volume aims to explore this aspect of Buddhism by focusing on one of its most important cults, that of the Buddha Amitâbha. Approaching the Land of Blissis a rich collection of studies of texts and ritual practices devoted to Amitâbha, ranging from Tibet to Japan and from early medieval times to the present.

The cult of Amitâbha is identified as an integral part of Tibet’s Mahayana Buddhist tradition in the opening essay by Matthew Kapstein. Next Daniel Getz, Jr., locates the Pure Land patriarch Shengchang more firmly in a Huayancontext and his Pure Conduct Society not so much in the propagation of Pure Land praxis but as a means of modifying anti-Buddhist sentiments. Jacqueline Stone’s study of the practice of reciting nenbutsu at the time of death gives us an understanding of both the practice itself and the motivating logic behind it. Kakuban—the founder of the one major “schism” in the history of the Shingon tradition—is placed in a typology of Japanese Pure Land thought inJames Sanford’s study of Kakuban’s Amida hishaku. Hank Glassman contributes an essay on the “subsidiary cult” of Chujohime, whichderived from the cult of Amitâbha but grew to such importance that it displaced the latter as the focus of worship in medieval Japan. In his examination of “radical Amidism,” Fabio Rambelli discusses different forms of Japanese Pure Land thought that constitute divergences from the mainstream or normative forms. Richard Jaffeexamines the work of the seventeenth-century cleric Ungo Kiyo, who sought to match his teaching to the needs and capacities of hisdisciples. Todd Lewis highlights the importance of cultic life and finds traces of the desire for rebirth into Sukhavati in stupa worship among Newari Buddhists. Charles Jones’ “thick description” of a one-day recitation retreat in Taiwan provides us with a closer look at how the cult of Amitâbha continues in present-day East Asia.

Approaching the Land of Bliss moves beyond the limitations of defining Buddhism in terms of its textual corpus or nation states,opening up the cult of Amitâbha in Nepal, Tibet, China, and Taiwan, and uncovering new aspects of Japanese Pure Land.

Contributors: Daniel A. Getz, Jr.; Hank Glassman; Richard Jaffe; Charles B. Jones; Matthew T. Kapstein; Todd T. Lewis; Richard K. Payne; Fabio Rambelli; James H. Sanford; Jacqueline I. Stone.
Studies in East Asian Buddhism, #17 Kuroda Institute

Re-Visioning “Kamakura” Buddhism, University of Hawai’i Press

The essays in this collection are an interdisciplinary examination of various aspects of Buddhism during the Kamakura era, including religious practice, literature, and institutional history. They work toward a synchronic historiography and thus provide a broader understanding and appreciation of the complexity and richness of Buddhism during the Kamakura era and of Japanese Buddhism as a whole.

Contributors: Richard K. Payne, James C. Dobbins, George S. Tanabe, Mark T. Unno, Jacqueline I. Stone, Robert E. Morrell, James H. Foard
Studies in East Asian Buddhism, #11 Kuroda Institute

Path of No Path: Contemporary Studies in Pure Land Buddhism Honoring Roger Corless, University of Hawai’i Press: Contemporary Issues in Buddhist Studies Series, published by the Institute of Buddhist Studies

Roger Corless (1938–2007) pursued his own path, one he described as a path with heart. This enabled him to bring new perspectives to the study of Buddhism in general and Pure Land in particular. Honoring his life and his contribution to the field, this collection brings together ten essays by his colleagues and friends. These articles cover a range of topics, from the practice of Pure Land to its historical transmission and its contemporary interpretation. Contributors include Harvey Aronson, Gordon Bermant, Alfred Bloom, Ruben Habito, Charles Jones, Charles Orzech, Richard Payne, Charles Prebish, James Sanford, and Kenneth Tanaka, as well as a remembrance by one of Corless’s students, Arthur Holder. As is only appropriate in memory of a pioneer in the field of Pure Land Buddhist studies, this work itself contributes to the further development of research and interpretation of the tradition.
Distributed for BDK America

Shin Buddhism: Historical, Textual, and Interpretive Studies, University of Hawai’i Press, Contemporary Issues in Buddhist Studies Series, published by the Institute of Buddhist Studies

This collection brings together studies of the history, textual tradition, and contemporary interpretation of Shin Buddhism by leading scholars in the field of Pure Land Buddhist studies. The historical studies included here span the range of Pure Land from its origins in India through its development as a distinct system of Buddhist praxis—that is, the dialectic of doctrine and practice—in China, to its rise as a separate and self-identified “Pure Land” (Jodo) tradition in Japan. In recent decades the term “Pure Land Buddhism” has come to be used very inclusively, as a term for all forms of Buddhist praxis that involves belief in the existence of a buddha land that is in some sense the goal of practice. The focus of this collection, however, is the cultic tradition of Amitabha and Amitayus.

Contributors: Allan A. Andrews, Joryu Chiba, Roger J. Corless, Mitsuya Dake, T. Griffith Foulk, Ruben L. F. Habito, Gilbert L. Johnston, Tetsuden Kashima, John P. Keenan, Whalen Lai, Bruno Lewin, Richard K. Payne, Ann T. Rogers, Minor L. Rogers, Hartmut O. Rotermund, Kenneth K. Tanaka, Katherine K. Velasco.
Distributed for BDK America

Religion and Society in Contemporary Korea, edited by Lewis R. Lancaster and Richard K. Payne, Center for Korean Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Korea Research Monograph, no. 24. 1997. (out of print)

Preface, Lewis R. Lancaster
1. The Contemporary Religious Situation in Korea, Yoon Yee-Heum
2. Hegemony and Shamanism: The State, the Elite, and Shamans in Contemporary Korea, Chungmoo Choi
3. Confucian Social Values in Contemporary South Korea, John Duncan
4. Buddhist Responses to the Modern Transformation of Society in Korea, Jae-ryong Shim
5. The Buddhist Lay Movement in Korean Society, Chung Byung-jo
6. Monastery Lay Associations in Contemporary Korean Buddhism: A Study of the Puril Hoe, Robert E. Buswell, Jr.
7. From Pottery to Politics: The Transformation of Korean Catholicism, Don Baker
8. History and Religion in Modern Korea: The Case of Protestant Christianity, Donald N. Clark
9. Ritual Forms and Religious Experiences: Protestant Christians in Contemporary Korean Political Context, Kwang-ok Kim
New Religions
10. Ch’ŏndogyo and Other New Religions of Korea, Yong-choon Kim

The Pure Land Tradition: History and Development, edited by James Foard, Michael Solomon, and Richard K. Payne, Berkeley Buddhist Studies Series, no. 3 (Berkeley: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley and the Institute of Buddhist Studies, 1996). (out of print)

From its beginnings in Buddhist India to the contemporary world, the Pure Land Tradition has been one of the most important strains of Buddhism. This collection of essays examines the historical development of the Pure Land Tradition from its origins in India, through its development in China to medieval Japan. Contributors include: Fujita Kotatsu, John C. Huntington, Roger J. Corless, David Chappell, Whalen Lai, Richard K. Payne, Akihisa Shigematsu, Taitetsu Unno, James H. Foard, Michael Solomon, Minor L. Rogers, and Chiba Joryu.


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